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President Xi in Myanmar to push for BRI plan

President Xi in Myanmar to push for BRI plan
Chinese president begins first state visit to Myanmar in 19 years as countries plan to ink several agreements

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) - Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is expected to be a primary issue of discussion in Myanmar on Friday during a landmark official state visit by the Chinese president to the country.

More than 100 police officers have been deployed in the Chinese embassy in Myanmar's commercial hub Yangon since Thursday, ahead of a two-day visit by the Chinese president in the country.

Activists planned to stage anti-China demonstrations in front of Chinese embassy in Yangon on Friday, but the authorities' measures forced them to stand down.

"Police did not grant us permission for the demonstration at the Chinese embassy today. We are, however, allowed to do it tomorrow in downtown Yangon," said organizer Aung Soe.

"We will then march to the Chinese embassy to submit a letter of our demands," Aung told Anadolu Agency on Friday.

He added that the main purpose of the protest would be to deliver the message that locals did not support a Chinese-backed mega-project for a dam at the confluence of the country’s longest Ayeyawaddy River.

The previous government led by reformist president Thein Sein suspended the controversial Chinese-led Myitsone dam project in 2011 following growing public criticism.

"The message to [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping] is very clear: Please cancel the Myitsone project," said Aung.

Xi, who visited Myanmar as vice-president in 2009, arrived in the country's political capital Nay Pyi Taw on Friday evening. He is scheduled to meet his counterpart Win Myint on Friday.

- Belt and Road

On Wednesday, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar daily published an article written by Xi.

"With Myanmar as an important partner country of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), our two sides have capitalized on the convergence of our development strategies," Xi said in the article.

"We have signed cooperation documents on building the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) and established a joint CMEC committee to oversee steady progress," he said.

The CMEC plans to connect China's Yunnan Province with Myanmar's second largest city Mandalay, and then stretch to Yangon and Kyaukpyu in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. It is widely seen as a strategic economic corridor under the BRI, an ambitious project to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks to boost trade and stimulate economic growth.

"Our two sides need to deepen results-oriented Belt and Road cooperation and move from a conceptual stage to concrete planning and implementation in building the CMEC.

"Efforts need to be made to promote the three pillars of the CMEC, namely the Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone, the China-Myanmar Border Economic Cooperation Zone and the New Yangon City," said Xi in his article.

- Talks' agenda

Myanmar officials said in a press conference last week that the leaders of the two countries would discuss how to boost bilateral trade and Chinese projects in Myanmar.

Deputy commerce minister Aung Htoo told Anadolu Agency that the Myitsone Dam project was not on the agenda of the visit.

"The talks would focus on three issues: One is for a concessional agreement for a deep sea port project in Kyaukphyu township in Rakhine," said Aung.

The port project gives Beijing strategic access to the India Ocean and will reduce its reliance in maritime trade on the narrow and congested Strait of Malacca between Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

"The leaders will also discuss the high-speed railroad project to connect Kyaukpyu and Kumin, China," said Aung.

He added that the two sides would sign agreements on forming two joint committees for bilateral trade and economic cooperation.

Meanwhile, civil society groups in Myanmar plan to submit an open letter to Xi, urging the total cancellation of the Myitsone Dam project.

It will also demand Chinese companies adhere to international standards and respect residents' rights.

China has been trying to broker cease-fires between the military and rebel ethnic armies engaged in armed conflict along the countries' shared border where China has invested heavily.

Days before Xi's visit, China's special envoy for Asian affairs Sun Guoxiang met with several key rebel leaders in Myanmar.

Sao Khun Sai, vice-chairman of a major rebel group Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), told Anadolu Agency last month that China views the armed clashes as threats to the stability needed to ensure the smooth completion of the BRI projects.

"We are in a situation in which we need China's support for an end of internal conflict," he said in an interview in the SSPP headquarter in the northeastern Shan state.

"Like it or not, it is the real situation we are facing."

source: News Feed
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